By Steven Hoffman
Chester County officials toured Oxford on Oct. 31 to get a firsthand look at the streetscape and infrastructure improvements that have been made possible through a series of grants that the borough has obtained.
“We think it’s important for us to visit the areas and see the projects that the money is being used for,” said County Commissioner Ryan Costello. “It’s an enjoyable part of the job to see what the grant money does.”
“We have been willing to invest again and again in the Borough of Oxford,” said County Commissioner Terence Farrell. “You’ve taken the money and used it well.”
The tour started at Oxford’s water plant where the water tanks were recently repaired and repainted thanks to a Community Development Block Grant. Oxford Public Works employees John Schaible, Tom Hindman, Jr., and Gary Hagy were on hand to explain the benefits of the improvements.
The water tanks were initially constructed in 1997. One tank has capacity for 750,000 gallons of raw supply water, while the larger tank holds 1.3 million gallons of water that supplies water to the 5,000 residents and businesses in town.
Hindman said that the water plant treats about 400,000 gallons of water per day, sufficient for all of the town’s households, businesses, and five schools.
Schaible said that the tanks were worn and weathered before the grant made it possible for Oxford to have the water tanks resurfaced. The borough was also able to install security cameras and lighting around the tanks to provide extra protection.
“We decided to go with a pretty high-tech system,” Schaible said.
He added that they also are adding backup generators for three more of the borough’s five wells. Another well and the water plant already have generators.
“Even if we lose power,” Schaible explained, “we don’t necessarily lose water.”
The next stop on the tour was on North Third Street where a second phase of a streetscape project has been taking place. Infrastructure upgrades are vitally important to a community, but they may go unnoticed to residents and visitors. The most visible upgrade in Oxford has certainly been the streetscape improvements to Third Street, the heart of the business district.
Borough manager Betsy Brantner said that she and the other Oxford officials are tremendously appreciative of the support that Oxford receives. She noted that the county not only provides funding for streetscape and infrastructure projects, but also helps municipalities navigate through the grant-application process.
“I feel really fortunate that we are in Chester County,” she said.
Brantner also thanked State Rep. John Lawrence for intervening when the Third Street streetscape project was being delayed because Verizon had not completed necessary work.
More improvements are on the way. Sue Cole, the executive director of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc., said that the borough received Department of Community and Economic Development grant that will provide funding for street lighting and façade improvements.
More than $225,000 in improvements are planned for Market Street. In all, Oxford has received more than $4 million in grants to make improvements that otherwise would have been impossible.
Farrell said that it was nice to see how the investments that the county has made have impacted the Oxford community in a positive way.
“We’re very pleased to continue the partnership with Oxford,” Farrell said.